Portrait photography

How to Start a Portrait Photography Business: 2020 Guide

Today, it’s becoming more and more common for the average person to go it alone as a self-starter. We’ve never had so much technology at our fingertips, and with it, it’s never been easier to launch a successful business with very little investment other than your time and energy.

Portrait photography isn’t easy – after all, it’s an art form. It takes a lot of skill but, beyond that, it takes a talent for the process. However, if you have the creative eye for capturing people at their best, your career as a professional photographer can start with an online apprenticeship and a few thousand dollars spent at B&H Photo. After that, you are free to build your empire as big or as small as you want.

How much money does it take to start a photography business?

It’s never easy trying to write down what you can expect to spend to start a business. However, the tools of the trade as a photographer are quite simple, so it’s a bit easier to try to forecast your initial investment.

Daily Business News recommends an initial investment of $10,000, spread over the following purchases:

  • Of them cameras: $1,500 to $2,000 each
  • Multiple lenses: $1,000 or more each
  • Two flashes: $700
  • Multiple flashcards: $50+ each
  • Two external drives: $120 each (keep backup offsite)
  • Computer or laptop with sufficient memory: $2,000
  • Website (Wix, PhotoShelter, SmugMug and/or Squarespace): $60+
  • Lightroom and Photoshop subscription: $120 per year
  • Commercial licenses: $150 (varies)
  • Insurance: $600 per year (varies)
  • Accounting: $300+ per year (varies)
  • Contracts: free up to $1,000 and more (varies)
  • Online proof gallery, like ShootProof: $120 per year
  • Business cards: $20 or more

Still, it’s important to remember that the amount of money you spend is entirely up to you. If you think you have the skills to get by with a camera and lens, then by all means test the limits of this setup. You’ll be surprised what a little innate talent and a lot of common sense can do in place of money.

How does a portrait photography business make money?

Portrait photography, like any artistic profession, makes money by providing a service to individuals who need your product but cannot produce it themselves. For you, this product is professional portrait photography.

Your job as a photographer is to sell your service and sell it well. However, profits are a numbers game, no matter how much fun you have.

Make a profit as portrait photographeryou have to fix yourself an annual salary target. Let’s say you want to earn $40,000 in a single year. With this knowledge, you are then supposed to forecast the number of clients you expect to have that year.

With a basic knowledge of your overhead and recurring expenses, you can then set a session price that, assuming you have the clientele, will get you to that salary goal.

how to start a portrait photography business

How to start a portrait photography business, step by step

Understanding how to start a portrait photography business with no experience and answering the question “what do I need to start a photography business” is both easier than ever with the vast online resources available. But some of us just want a step by step guide to easily explain how to start a portrait photography business.

Create a business plan

Every successful business starts with a thoughtful and marketing plan. At this point, you should see both the big picture and the fine details of your business model. This is where you want to establish your salary, equipment investment budget, and have a detailed understanding of your projected costs so you can finish the year in the green.

If you’re too short-sighted or don’t do the work necessary to create a business plan, you’re leaving your success to hunches, assumptions, and luck.

Invest in hardware

Once you have a good understanding of your business model and your budget, it’s time to invest in the equipment that will start making money for you. I suggest you check out the list I posted earlier to figure out exactly what you need. Remember to start slow and invest slowly.

You don’t need to have it all at once. In fact, on your first day on the job, you might be surprised to find that you do just fine with a camera and a lens. As you broaden your reach and deepen your reach, you will find natural opportunities to expand your toolbox.

File for the right permits

As a portrait photographer, you can find yourself in a studio most of the time. However, outdoor portrait photography is just as compelling, if not more so. However, you’ll stand out like a sore thumb taking photos of your model in public with your expensive camera and zoom lens.

Additionally, you can attract the police who will ask you if you have the proper permissions to shoot in certain areas. Rather than face embarrassment or even a fine, get permits for the most popular places you shoot.

Cultivate a brand

You’ll be nothing, no matter how talented, without some sort of cohesive “brand” that you can call your own. Although the term is often used, it is simply about understanding your personality and style and creating an intentional plating around it.

Any professional will tell you that looking professional is the first step to becoming a professional.

get your name out

You’ve done the work of creating a business plan, investing in the right equipment, filing the right paperwork so you can take your models to some of the hottest spots in the area, and you’ve even created a consistent and thematic style around your photography that can be easily represented to potential clients. Now is the time to get clients. A hybrid of local and online advertising can work wonders – sites like Craigslist and Facebook can be hyperlocal hubs that will easily spread your message. Or even think about creating your own Youtube channel.

If you keep sending signals, eventually someone will respond. And when you show them how capable, thoughtful and professional you are as a portrait photographer, the rest will be history. Understanding how to start a portrait photography business is all about creating a deliberate path for yourself that you can easily follow. The more you leave room for chance, the harder it is to succeed.